Monday, January 21, 2008

Ban This

I was looking at past reports of role-playing game hysteria from the 90's and comparing it to attempts to ban violent video games in this decade. Mostly I was hoping to map it out and find a correlation in various states, such as a predilection to ban threatening sub-culture media in the Mid-West. It was clear pretty quickly that there are some big differences.

First, RPG's never became mainstream, only a misunderstood sub-culture that caused a stir of concern, but never percolated to the top of the agenda. The video game market, sales wise is about 100 times larger, and about half the population have consoles.

Second, because the video game market is so large, and violence in them is so pronounced and viewable, it's very easy to understand and document the images. They're the same in each individual console game and not in some kids imagination. Because of this and the prevalence of video games, it has become an easy attack of opportunity, an method for politicians, both experienced (like Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and ironically, Arnold Schwarzenegger) and newcomers, to make names for themselves.

This has spread legislation far beyond the Mid-West, which does have a good share of it, to New York and California. Luckily the video game community, with it's sales 100 times larger than the RPG community, can mount vigorous defenses with the first amendment on their side. They always win, at least so far. To use a computer industry term, the RPG industry has security through obscurity. Nobody cares anymore because they're culturally insignificant.


  1. Of course, the anti-RPG crowd based their objections on the "satanic" aspects of games that allowed players to have their characters follow a god (lower case) from a variety of pantheons, rather than the God (upper case) that their own real world religious beliefs concern.
    This is quite different from the many real medical objections that some people have with video games (seizure inducing graphics, obesity due to spending too much time sitting in front of the console, lack of social interaction, active participation in a storyline that demands and rewards repetitive gratuitous violence - especially that of an anti-social/criminal nature, sensory overstimulation that makes it difficult to pay attention to activities such as reading, classwork, etc.).

    It is really odd to me that so many "Christians" have so little actual faith in their religion that they are afraid to allow people to even conceive of other religious options. This procedure is far more common/established within the Catholic church of yesteryear, and the Islamic community of today, where "Profess to believe, or die" is the option given.

    Which begs the philosophical question - if you profess a faith that you don't truly believe in, will the god of that faith even care about you? And if they do notice you, won't they want to punish you for hypocrisy and bearing false witness?

    Please note that I am a Christian, but am strong/mature enough in my beliefs that I can allow, and even encourage, discussion of other possible deities and faiths.

  2. To follow up, video games - like many things in life - are fine IN MODERATION.

    The only time RPGs can get physically dangerous (barring papercuts, or crushing fingers with weighty metal dice) is when a poorly organized LARP puts players in contact with non-players who may react negatively/violently to some aspect of the game story.

  3. I think we'll start seeing fewer of these laws being proposed before too long. Why? Because the video game industry has finally put together a PAC to lobby legislators directly.

  4. You have some usage errors: attack, attach, and something near that.